JAG Nebraska program aims to build better future for students across the state

Originally published: July 1, 2022

JAG Nebraska program aims to build better future for students across the state

Empowering students with the skills and support to succeed in education, employment and life — that’s the mission of JAG Nebraska.

By utilizing a model developed by the national Jobs for America’s Graduates organization, the program is dedicated to empowering students with personal and professional development training and support to succeed in high school, further education and employment following graduation.

JAG Nebraska was created after Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Commissioner of Labor John Albin attended a national conference and learned of the JAG national organization and programming. They saw the proven outcomes and benefits for other states, so in January of 2019, the State of Nebraska funded and founded the initial three JAG Nebraska high school programs in Columbus, Fremont and Macy (UMÓⁿHOⁿ Nation).

Later that year, JAG Nebraska implemented additional programs in Grand Island, Hastings, Nebraska City and York.

In July 2020, United Way of the Midlands became Nebraska’s JAG-affiliate organization and continued growing the program by adding two Omaha Public Schools high schools and four OPS middle schools.

JAG Nebraska students wrote thank you notes to supporters of the program at the 2022 JAG Nebraska Career Development Conference.

Currently, JAG Nebraska is serving 645 students within eight school districts statewide — increasing to 1,250 students and adding Auburn, Blair and Tecumseh for the upcoming 2022-23 school year. By 2023-24, JAG Nebraska’s goal is to provide services through 50 programs statewide — equally balanced between metro and rural areas and increasing capacity to serve up to 2,500 students.

“JAG Nebraska is the gold standard of state partners,” Gov. Ricketts said. “JAG’s work with our agencies, business leaders and community members has cultivated the next generation of Nebraska workers. The students they serve are set up for success in the years to come.”

The JAG advantage

Students created fun and engaging posts for social media at the 2022 JAG Nebraska Career Development Conference.

JAG Nebraska believes all young people are capable of greatness, and that it’s seldom achieved alone.

The program helps equip students for success through on-site and hands-on instruction during school hours, decreases absences by increasing student engagement and decreases incidents of school violence. A certified JAG Career Specialist in each school functions as a teacher, coach, mentor and advocate for students with identified challenges to success.

“Patience and structure are what our students need much of the time,” said Matthew Fike, career specialist at York High School. “We are raising up the men and women who will shape and lead our state in the next few years. We owe it to them to equip them with the skills they need to be great contributors.”

JAG Nebraska students in the rotunda of the state capitol in Lincoln on Legislative Day 2022.

Offered as a for-credit, elective class during the regular school day, JAG Nebraska motivates students to come to school and helps them thrive once they get there.

Over the course of the program year, students master up to 87 core competencies identified by business and industry as essential to successful employment and positive outcomes in life.

Students also build relationships with employers and work collaboratively with community organizations through volunteer efforts in civic and employer-based experiences. As a result, JAG Nebraska students are well-equipped to contribute to their community.

JAG Nebraska gets results

In measuring the success of the program, a few key indicators are used as part of the national JAG model. Locally in Nebraska, JAG programs have exceeded national standards year over year.

Set up for success

Taylor, JAG Nebraska Student

JAG Nebraska student Taylor’s step-father died of pancreatic cancer a couple of years ago, and this was incredibly hard on her and her family.

So when Taylor graduated from high school and decided she wanted to go straight into the workforce, JAG Nebraska provided the support she needed to identify her strengths and some careers that interested her.

After taking assessments and exploring various careers, Taylor determined she would like to work in a position that utilized her math skills.

JAG Nebraska helped her get an interview for an accounts payable position at Commonwealth Electric, a local electrical contractor. She blew them away in her interview and was hired. This career has given Taylor the financial security to live on her own and move into her first apartment.

You can make a difference

By donating to JAG Nebraska, you help students like Taylor — and the hundreds of others enrolled in the program across the state — thrive. With your support, JAG Nebraska students will have the tools to navigate high school, graduate and achieve post-graduation success.

“Through JAG, I was able to discover the true leader I am. It’s an amazing program that really helped me shape my future and feel more prepared, ” said Kylie, a 12th-grade JAG Nebraska student at Fremont High School. “Instead of going into the workforce or attending college unprepared, because of JAG, I have all of the resources I need. It has changed my life in so many ways and I am so grateful for that.”

To learn more about JAG Nebraska and see how you can support the program, go to www.jagnebraska.org/gift.

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